Thursday, December 9, 2010


So, things have been quieter outside the school today. It's been raining, drizzle mostly, all day; that's made things better, I think. There are fewer tire fires, too. The only bad thing that's happened down here was that a UN convoy got stoned. Apparently, on top of them being blamed (justifiably) for the cholera outbreak, they are now the ones guarding the CEP, which is the Haitian election committee. So the people have been increasingly violent towards them. This morning, Ben Kilpatrick, the high school history teacher, Ben Saylor, middle school science and math teacher, Aaron Hendrik, high school Bible teacher, and myself walked from the school up to Petionville and back with a Haitian who tutors Creole at the school and aspires to be a journalist. It was somewhat of a spur of the moment thing. I went outside and walked the street for about an hour yesterday and when I heard that Jean (the Creole tutor) was going to Petionville to take pictures I wanted to go with him. I speak some Creole and am very familiar with the streets between our school and Petionville and above, so I didn't feel as much at risk. The two Bens joined us at the last minute. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, if you know what I mean. We have been extremely safe and unbothered at the school. Going outside was, at best, exposing ourselves to greater danger. But the crowds were very docile at that point and we encountered more good-natured people than angry people. It didn't hurt that people were always laughing and poking fun at my beard. We had heard that things were much worse in Petionville so we wanted to see for ourselves, with every intention of turning back as soon as we saw trouble. Well, we really didn't see trouble. Not from crowds, anyway. Things seemed much quieter in Petionville than they were in Delmas, opposite of what it was yesterday. The fires were all out up there and the crowds weren't as charged. There was a lot of broken glass on the streets, something we hadn't seen in Delmas. Though going through Delmas we passed several burned out cars in the street. Again, these were relics from the day before; nothing was going on as we went through. There were a few unsettling parts of our outing. We met a drunk man who was singing Bob Marley songs and swearing loudly (in English) at the UN and the government. Outside the CEP headquarters in Petionville, he almost got tear gassed by Jordanian UN troops. Ben K dissuaded the soldiers, however. He was marvelous, actually. After that one man left, things were fine. There was a Sikh there who had a blue turban instead of a helmet, which I thought was extremely cool. After that, we passed a large crowd with a loud band marching toward the CEP. We later heard that there was some shooting when they got there and some people were hospitalized. We were doing our best to avoid the crowds and, had there been one when we were at the CEP, we never would have gone near it. In all, we were gone about three hours, which was much longer than we had wanted to be gone, but we got to see a lot. But things were not tense for us at all. Everyone we met was friendly and we had a translator with us as well. I am highly recommending that people do not do this, however, and I do not think that I will be doing it again. Things were extremely calm this morning but they are getting less so as the day has progressed. So far, as I said, we've been perfectly safe at the school and it's best to stay that way. I haven't felt any reason to be afraid and I'm really not afraid. I really, really wanted to see it, though. I felt like I would be ashamed if I had to say to my grandchildren one day that I hid in my house the whole time or watched it all over a wall.

From Yesterday

This was an update e-mail I wrote yesterday. I decided to put it up here so more people could read it. I'll post later today (assuming internet is working) what's been going on today.

Well, hello. I just wanted to let you know what's happening here. They announced last night the results of the election and it's obvious fraud. Not the election itself, though that was pretty racy, too. It's the results that were announced which obviously don't correspond to public opinion. So there have been "riots" and demonstrations since last night pretty continuously, though obviously more this morning. There is a major roadbock (complete with smelly burning tires) just outside the school on Delmas, right at the 75 intersection. We can see one up the street and down the street, too. Apparently they are all over. From the reports that we've been getting on facebook, etc., we are in a relatively quiet place. By quiet I mean non-violent. There are reports of people breaking windows and looting in Petionville. I talked to an NPR photographer (oxymoron?) who had just come from there, though, and he said it was just like it is here. There is some admittedly creepy stuff that's been going on but nothing that has threatened us. Some of the people here insist on taking pictures (pretty constantly, in fact) which the crowds really don't like and has earned us some rude gestures. Other than that we've had nothing but friendly reactions from protesters and onlookers. I went down into the street for about an hour this morning and talked to people and everyone was polite and non-threatening. Off of Delmas some places selling food and such are still open in the vicinity. In general, it doesn't seem threatening at all. A couple people threw rocks at a UN convoy but they have even been moving the roadblocks to let the police through. Nothing has been remotely violent yet. The stuff going on outside our building is apparently being organized by someone. (We've been referring to him as "the boss".) He's been very peaceful so far, even admonishing the stone throwers, so we have good hopes that it will stay peaceful in our area. Nobody is alarmed (except the alarmists) right now. Those who were here during the last elections and the food riots a couple years ago say it's just normal stuff. It's not violent, yet, and there really isn't much to point in violence at this point. It's complicated because people are also upset at the UN for causing the cholera epidemic but, again, we aren't a target. All in all, it was an exciting morning, the first time seeing burning tires and such for most of us, but nothing more. The Hendrik kids have been playing all over campus, enjoying their day off. It's really quite safe here and even on the street, for those brave enough to go outside (like me!). To be honest, I didn't want to say that I watched the "riots" without ever going down and talking to people. I've always been told that Haitians will be protective of you if there's any danger but I got to experience it firsthand today. Every time waves of protesters would come down, this one group of guys I was talking to stood to either side of me and slightly in front and herded people past. There was one point everyone started running (I think someone must have thrown a stone at the UN vehicles; that's the only thing that I've seen that made people scared.) and, again, aside from that momentary startling, I didn't feel threatened at all. I'm safe back inside now and I just wanted to let you know that I'm perfectly alright, that there's nothing to be afraid of and that none of the people with experience expect anything more than a potentially long wait for the country to get running again. Internet hasn't been reliable but I'll keep you apprised as I can.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Back in Haiti

Nearly seven months post-quake, I find myself sitting in my apartment at Quisqueya, looking down at the streets of Port-au-Prince, enjoying the relative cool of an early morning breeze. "Welcome back" and "welcome home" have been the greetings offered to me since I've arrived. I'm one of the first to come back, for only two other continuing teachers are have returned, though the three new couples came this week for orientation. Also, several people who I knew were returning are here, only to pack their things. They're leaving. I find myself far more traumatized than I would have imagined, unable to imagine Quisqueya without Carol Heath, the student activities director who became the unofficial social director for the dozen new, single teachers that came in last year timid and uncertain. She was a crucial part of transforming us from a collection of lonely individuals into a team, tightly united and ready to adapt to anything, even a quake. I will equally miss Sean Blesh, the technologies director, with his acerbic wit and off-beat sense of humor that made us all shake our heads at just the right times, with his unflagging determination and drive in everything from the most simple tasks to huge, semester long projects. He was the most dependable person on campus. His family has the highest respect in my eyes. His children were more help during the post-earthquake and relief times than most of the adults on campus. They are a wonderful family. Sean and Denise are two of the people here I look up to most. I will sorely miss them. Nobody can ever fill these shoes. Yet, as I also am reunited with so many of the people I have missed. To sit at dinner with Randall and Anita Chabot, my very dear friends, was to feel at home. I even saw and spoke with a homeless woman I see often. To greet and say a simple "I missed you; it's good to see you again" to the guards and staff of the school, to ride through the familiar streets, it evokes strange emotions. This place has a lot of good memories and horrific memories. It has been a place of adventure and sorrow. I realized in the airport that, in several senses, I'm not a visitor here anymore.

Well, with that melancholy introduction out of the way (but how could any re-introduction to Haiti be anything but melancholy right now?), I will give a review of where I'm at right now. For those of you who didn't know, I spent a month and a half this summer in Cochrane, AB, enjoying a lot of peace and quiet and cold. I feel wonderfully rejuvenated. While I knew how bad the five months or so after the earthquake were, I don't think I truly knew the extent of it until I had been gone for about a month. I had a lot of recuperating to do! I had a marvelous time with friends, hiking in the mountains, walking through the parks, swimming in rivers and lakes (which were still covered with ice floes), camping and backpacking, writing, and beating people with sticks (ask me and I'll clarify).

I spent the last part of my vacation in Florida with my family. It was a very good visit. I got to see my new nephew for the first time and he really does look like a Kulpa. I went camping with my family, swimming in Florida's wonderful springs, canoeing with my little sisters (You're a great paddler, Abby!) and spending plenty of time just talking with my mom or going for walks with my siblings. I even managed to drive around with my dad in his semi for a couple days.

I arrived in Haiti the day before yesterday. That's Thursday, August 5th. Randall picked me up from the airport and we got straight to work. One of the major changes that was already well begun when I left was relocating the library. The secondary library had been completely upturned by the quake. And when we moved everything when the army took over our high school/middle school building, most of the books were literally piled in the basement. Many of us thought the library could never be resurrected from that morass. But slowly and steadily it happened. The director, the principle, and the Bible teacher pulled things together a book at a time for several months and when school ended, it was decided that the library would be relocated to the second floor of the admin building and combined with the elementary library. The administration had been working in the elementary library since the quake, surrounded by picture books. Well, that project is now almost finished. Having seen the mess things were in before, it is little short of miraculous, if short at all! Also, the room where the library was has been converted into two classroom-sized rooms, one of which is being used as the resource room for the time being. So all the textbooks that we spend the week after school moving into the basement science rooms had to be moved upstairs to the new resource room. That and moving occupied most of my first day here.

One of the consequences of the earthquake has been a serious housing shortage. As a result, many more of the teachers, especially new ones coming in, are going to be living on campus. In order to make more room, several of the larger apartments were restructured into several smaller apartments. Mine was given to a couple with a young child, so when I left here in June, I had no idea where I was going to be living when I got back. But things shaped up and I now have a very fine place directly above where I was living before. It really isn't any smaller and is considerably more bright and airy, so I'm quite pleased with it. Also, it has a spare bedroom, so I expect lots of you to come visit me! * hint, hint * Seriously, though, anyone is welcome. I already have a house guest and I've only been here one full day!

Yesterday the new high school principle took the new teachers on a tour and I went along to assist. We visited the lookout at Boutillie. For me, it was the first time I'd seen Port-au-Prince from above like that since the earthquake. The differences, and the apparent improvements since that time, are...moving. This morning I took Aaron Hendrick, the new high school Bible teacher and my housemate until Tuesday, to Epi Dor for croissants. What a familiar and pleasant breakfast. I think that has been the overwhelming feeling I've had since I re-arrived in Haiti. This place is full of memories but, all in all, taken as a package, it is where I belong.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Happy Palm Sunday everyone! Hosanna, hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Things have been going very well here in Haiti. We had our first report cards since the earthquake yesterday and most of the students are doing very well. We had an educational psychologist from Canada volunteer his time to speak with the students. He was here for a month evaluating and working with kids. They really loved him and he was able to help quite a few of them, as well as giving us a lot of good advice for how to help him. He especially emphasized what I have felt since I got here, that we as teachers are really pastors to these kids. No matter what else goes on, what other roles I fill while I am here, I feel my primary ministry is to the students. Getting to know them, meeting them where they're at, and sharing God's love with them is the greatest thing that I do in Haiti.

I did, however, get a marvelous opportunity to share what God has laid on my heart. Last Sunday I was asked to preach at St. James Episcopal Church in Petionville, not far from the school. I got to put on my suit for the first time since I've been here and speak from God's word. As much as I love teaching math and science, or anything for that matter, nothing compares to teaching the Bible. I enjoyed it tremendously. I was invited back so I may get more opportunities like this in the future. I decided to share my sermon with all of you, in the hopes that it would mean something to you as well. What's going on in Haiti right now serves as a reminder of the tasks that we have been given by Christ, to seek the redemption of souls and to minister to the needs and hurts of all humans. We need to be reminded, and challenged, to see that we are living up to our responsibilities.

Thank you, again, to everyone who is praying for me! Don't let anyone forget Haiti!

Luke 20:9-19 (English Standard Version)

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

9 And he began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.' 14But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.' 15And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When they heard this, they said, "Surely not!" 17But he looked directly at them and said, "What then is this that is written:

"'The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone'?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him."

19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.

In most of Europe during the days of the Renaissance, one could not be a businessman in the city without being a member of a guild. Those who were not guild members would be forever employees of another, never their own masters. Now in the city of Venice, in Italy, there lived a guild master. He was a stoneworker and master of the stoneworker's guild. But he was no ordinary stoneworker. He was a sculptor of renown. Under his hands a block of stone could be transformed into anything from an ornate column to a magnificent statue. He was a craftsman without peer.
Now this guild master had a son. The day his son took his first steps he placed his lightest hammer and smallest chisel into the boy's hands. As the boy grew, the guild master would take his son into the workshop and he would teach the boy his trade and from a young age the boy's skill was noted. As a youth he had more experience sculpting than many masters in the city. He worked with his father daily, had the benefit of the finest tools and the best instructors in Italy. The guild master was proud of his son, sure that he would one day be the finest stoneworker in Venice.
But as the son grew older he became less interested in his father's work. As often happens, he became more irresponsible as an adult than he was as a child. He avoided the workshop and spent his time with his friends, seeking amusement and entertainment. Every day without fail his father would seek him out and ask him about his sculpting, offering lessons and work. But each time the boy would turn down his father and go out carausing. His father often warned him that if he did not apply himself, he would never become the great sculptor that he could be. But the boy ignored the warnings. In time even his friends became concerned. "If you do not work, how will you pass the test to become a member of the guild," they asked. But he would mock them and reply, "I have sculpted since I was a child! And, besides, my father is the Guild Master. How can I not pass?" So the boy continued in his irresponsible ways.
But not forever. The day came when he was called before the stoneworkers' guild to be tested for membership. As he went into the workroom, for the first time in so long, his hands trembled as he took up the tools. He remembered being able to create works of art but his hands could not remember their skill. He tried as hard as he could but the work that he did was unimpressive, far beneath the requirements of the guild.
When the boy came out before the leaders of the guild to show them his work, he stood ashamed before his father. The Guild Master looked down at his son with great sorrow in his eyes and said, "My son, how I have longed for you to become a great artist, to carry on the legacy that I have begun. I have seen your talent and you have been given every advantage that could be given. But you have chosen to squander your talent, your advantages, and your time. And now you have disappointed your father and done dishonor to his name. You will not be given membership in the guild; you will not be your own master. Because you wasted what you were given and did not fulfill your responsibility, you will serve another until you have learned from your mistakes."
Just as that father stood over his son and cried over how much he longed to see his son succeed, so Christ stood over Jerusalem and wept over it, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem", he said, "The city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wing, and you would not." Then, though it pains him to say it, he passes judgement on them. "See, your house is left to you desolate. I say to you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'" The time had passed for second chances. Like the tenants in the parable, they had been given chance after chance. But there always comes a last chance.
God was not speaking to pagans or those outside of the faith. He is speaking to those who had every advantage, His people. For generation after generation the faith had been handed down to them. They had God's Word, they heard God's Voice, they saw His miracles. He entrusted them with a task and they failed Him. He gave them many gifts and they squandered them.
These are the Pharisees that Jesus is telling the parable to. They squandered their time on politics, competing with each other and with foreigners for influence over the people, on pride, going out of their way to convince everyone that they were holier and more spiritual than they really were, and on foolish disputations and arguments on fine points of theology. He tells this parable at them! We are even told that they get it, know that He's talking about them, and are furious. He is pointing the finger at them and saying, "You were given a responsibility! You were given every advantage! You were given countless warnings! And now you've failed and you will be punished." And like a father, he grieves...
They had a responsibility as servants, an enormous responsibility, the same responsibility that we have. "God is not willing that any should perish." It's that simple and that huge. As joint heirs with Christ, we are also colaborers with Him. We are partakers in His responsibility, His mission. The redemption of a lost world is the task He has given us, to work alongside of Him in His mission. That's a pretty enormous task!
And what have we been given? What advantages do we benefit from? God's Word, the Holy Spirit, the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us, Omnipotent God with us every moment. The fellowship of believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ, a body to bear us up when we are weak and encourage us when we think we are alone. The weapons of the Spirit, the armor of God, the keys to the Kingdom, the promise that even the gates of hell will not prevail against us!
How terrible would it be if one day we stood before God like the tenants, who had failed in their responsibility, and like the guild master's son, who had squandered all that had been given to him and failed to follow in his father's work, and in that day He condemned us like He did them. How awful! How unimaginable!
But this is not that day! If anything this day is one of those warnings. This passage is to us like these messengers, calling us to give an account of our Master's property, to give to Him our fruit. Let us not disappoint Him!
Let us not, like the tenants, forget that we serve not ourselves but another. Let us not, like the Pharisees, have wasted our time and gifts on things which are important in this world but utterly insignificant in the Kingdom. Let us not, like the guild master's son, be distracted by the pleasures of this world and our own agenda. Let us rather have fruit to show for our work, fruit which we gladly give as tribute to Him. Let us be known as those who are about His mission, who do His work.
And May God Strengthen Us To The Task.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy, and Tired

The last week since I have been back in Haiti has been a busy one, full of ups and downs. Sean Blesh, formerly the school's technical director and the one in charge of all technology and communications for the school and the relief center, has been in the States seeing his family. So I have been called upon to deal with a lot of the technical issues. Saturday evening the entire system crashed, leaving all of our internet-based communications completely non-functional. I found out about it at about 8:00 and spent the night working on it. I wasn't able to fix it but I did find a way to connect individual computers so that they could get internet, so I made sure that those who were involved in crucial things got the connection they needed. I got to bed between 3 and 4 in the morning, upset that I hadn't fixed the system but pleased that at least it was working in a skeletal way. Well, I was woken at 6:30 Sunday morning by the principle, Tony Dekoter, rapping on my window to tell me that the system was down. I did what I could, hooked up new people's computers as needed (at this point getting internet on a computer was a fairly involved process and couldn't be done en masse), but I was so tired that I couldn't stay and troubleshoot. I explained the situation and told him I needed to get some rest before I tackled it again. So I went back to bed and he called the other tech guy who is available, David Farquharson, former chemistry teacher and wife of the 6th grade teacher. When I had rested some more I woke up to find that David had taken apart the electrical system that our servers, routers, etc. were plugged into! Apparently he felt that may have had something to do with the problem. But it removed my temporary fix, leaving the entire site without internet. It took us until 3 or 4 in the afternoon to get it up and running again, which required us to completely wipe the system and rebuild it from the ground up. It was not what either of us would have wanted to do on a Sunday. We both missed church, David had to spend his day off working, and I was up all night. But, on a positive note, we got the internet up in time to follow the Gold Medal hockey game! I only watched the live stat updates on the Vancouver2010 website but it was still an exciting game!
This basic scenario has repeated itself a couple of times since then. The internet goes out, usually in the evening after David has left, so I have been spending a lot of time, especially at night, getting it back running again. Some people are abusing our system, using the internet connection that we have set up for communications, doctors' use, and for the school administration for downloading things. That has really tested my patience.
Things have been very busy with school, as well. We have physics and calculus classes on Mondays and Fridays and, due to lack of space, those have been meeting in my house. That's been a lot of fun, actually. The seniors at our school are great kids and I enjoy getting to teach them. But we have even fewer resources than we had before (not even enough textbooks for all the kids because the books are mostly buried in storage rooms in parts of the campus occupied by the military) and we are literally sitting around my table (about a 3 foot diameter circle) in old rattan chairs with one tiny whiteboard. But it's been great. Several of the seniors who didn't have the prerequisites and weren't in physics before are taking the class just for fun and they're doing very well. We are studying electricity and physics is just a lot of fun.
Yesterday was World Maths Day, an online competition for elementary, middle, and high school students in basic math skills. The games consist of 60 second speed drills played against opponents all over the world. Tony Dekoter signed up the school for the competition and we set up several of the computers that had been donated to the school so that the kids could compete. They had a lot of fun doing it! Unfortunately, our internet was working unreliably so we weren't able to participate as much as we would have wanted to.
I have a lot of other things I want to say about the school but I don't have the time right now. The kids are doing well, for the most part. You can see the improvement since we started school again after the quake. It has been so good for them. I am living for those hours where I get to teach and work with the kids.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. I appreciate it tremendously! For those of you who want more information about the activities of the school and relief efforts, check out the blogs at and

Keep praying!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

There and Back Again

I am now back in Haiti after a much-needed rest. I was able to spend some time secluded, recharging myself spiritually and emotionally, to get out and walk and hike and just be outside. I have always felt that when I stand outside in cold weather, that the tensions and anxieties get pulled out of me along with the body heat. It was as if I could feel them leaving my body. Thank God for good, dry, cold weather!

From February 18th until my birthday on the 22nd, I was able to be at home with my family in St. Augustine, Florida. After surviving a month in Haiti after the earthquake, many of us began to rotate out of the country to take some time to recuperate. We too often forget that those of us working in relief are victims of the quake as well. Many of us lost friends and most of us had to either move or share our homes with others. We have been working long hours and being responsible for several separate tasks, each of them at least a full time job in and of themselves. We have all been overtired and overtaxed, pushing ourselves and each other as far as we can go. A lot has been accomplished and yet the task still seems too great for our meager strength. Some of us were able to take a few days here and there to rest but for many of us these "days off" were interrupted by illness or by sudden emergencies. The week of February 14th is Carnival in Haiti and was a break from school so those of us whose primary responsibility at this point is teaching took the opportunity to get away. Ben and Katie Kilpatrick, the high school history and English teachers, respectively, went to the Dominican Republic for some alone-on-the-beach time. Denny Day, the high school Bible teacher, went the Texas to see his family, which evacuated there in the weeks following the quake. We all felt a little guilty to be leaving, knowing that there are so many people here who cannot leave, but we knew that in order to continue to serve we needed to take care of ourselves, too.

I was able to spend several days with my family, including my 25th birthday! It was so good to be with them, again. Abagail, my youngest sister, I have not seen since I initially moved to Haiti in September because she spent Thanksgiving through Christmas breaks with my older sister in Alaska, so it was great to see her at last. We had a really good time (played several games of "low-tech laser tag") and it was a pleasant and restful time for me.

I got to go to the game night that the Young Singles Sunday School class put on Saturday night and it was a blast! We ate delicious bean soup (or chili, I wasn't quite sure which) that Sandy made (superb!) and had plenty of snacks, pop, and deserts. We watched Olympic curling, which absolutely surprised me. It is one of my favorite sports to watch but I had no idea that anyone else in the class watched it. Those of us who appreciate the sport explained it to those who didn't understand it and we had a generally good time of it. We also got to watch some bobsledding (stupid fat bobsledders -- inside joke) and skiing and speed skating. We played several games, including catchphrase and the Game of Things (which I particularly like). In the Game of Things, I think one of the answers every round was my beard. We had a really good time, laughing at ourselves for not understanding what "ice cakes" meant and at some of the more bizarre answers. It was so good to just be able to relax and laugh with some friends. I too often forget what great friends I have at Fruit Cove Baptist Church. Thanks to all you guys in the Young Singles class, and to David and Sandy especially! I love you guys!

I got to speak in the service Sunday morning, where I was interviewed by Father Patrick, the young adult pastor. After that, I was invited to share in my parents' Sunday School class, where I think I took up most of the lesson sharing about what God has been doing in Haiti! Then I got to catch the last part of my own Sunday School class and then go to lunch with David and Sandy, Mike, and Bill. David was sharing this incredible testimony of God moving us into obedience to His word. I always enjoy David's lessons. More, in fact, than most sermons! This testimony wass so real, so heartfelt, and so practical... The Bible is, indeed, such a dangerous book when we really get serious about doing what It says! We never know when God is going to encounter us in a real situation, bringing to mind a clear teaching of His word that we've just never known how to apply to our lives before. Exciting! It was great to be able to chat with people, to talk about what's been happening in my life and in Haiti in general. It was invaluable!

I flew out of Florida Tuesday morning. My family drove me to the airport and, after I checked in (because they wouldn't let me do it online but that was okay because it meant Jonathan got to stand with me in line!), we went to the cell phone lot and ate breakfast together before I had to leave. Then I went through one of the longest security lines I have ever seen! Well, there were 8+ lines and they were each incredibly long. And that was only for one half of the terminal! My flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico went very smoothly. I finished my book (American Gods, very interesting, good ending!) and even slept some. Between sleeping after I finished packing, on the way to the airport, and in the air over the Caribbean, I think I got most of a night's sleep!

San Juan was an interesting place. What I saw of it looks exactly like South Florida. The road signs being all the same, and so many of the same advertisements you see driving around the Miami area, made it look very familiar and non-foreign. The only real difference was that Spanish was first, instead of second, on most of the signs. I rather liked it and wished I could have spent more time there.

Getting to Santo Domingo was a huge relief. I was a little confused at customs but found I didn't need to buy a tourist card or anything like that. My very dear friend, Randall Chabot, the former guidance counselor at the school and one of the people who have stayed in my house since the earthquake because their own home was damaged, was supposed to pick me up at the airport. But he was having car troubles (literally, his mechanic was panicking in the middle of a routine repair job because "it just isn't working!!" Believe me, I know what that's like!) so I wound up waiting, not unpleasantly, in the airport for a couple of hours. Then we drove around historic Santo Domingo for a while (hard to believe that it was an older city than St. Augustine. It was more or less founded by Columbus!) and got some food and went to bed. He put me on the bus the next morning for Port-au-Prince. I was so thankful that Randall was there to get me. It made the whole experience vastly more pleasant and less frightening.

The trip from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince was fantastic! Anyone who has known me very long has heard me tell stories about taking the bus from Florida to Alberta and back. I love bus trips! The seats are so much more comfortable than airplanes and I much prefer the bumpiness of roads to the shuddering of turbulence. I rarely get carsick but planes always tie my stomach in knots. I got to read, write, sleep, and watch the endlessly interesting scenery. The Dominican Republic looks much more like a tropical island than Haiti does, with more palms and other trees. And the desert parts look like scenes from Mexico. It was nice. I enjoyed watching the people and the towns, noting the differences and similarities to Haiti. Crossing the border took a long time but I didn't actually have to do anything because the bus people took in all our passports. That's the way to go, I say! I really don't like talking to officials. There were a group of Haitian marchanns (street merchants) that set up right outside the bus to sell pop and crackers and such. After all that time spent in airports, it was initially fun to see things for sale that weren't ridiculously overpriced. Although...they were selling bottles of soda for 30 gourdes each, half again what I've always paid before. The border crossing is on the border of a huge lake (I forget the name) and the road follows the edge of the lake for a long time, then goes through some villages on the Haitian side for a while before going into Port-au-Prince. Again, I was really interested in watching the contrast between the Dominican countryside and Haiti.

It was about 7:30 when I got into Petionville. I successfully went the entire trip without speaking a word of English! Unless my name counts... Last time I was out of the country for a while my Creole was rusty when I came back so I decided I needed to practice a bit. Anita Chabot picked me up and brought me to the school. Some people (the Bitners) had been staying in my house while I was gone and when I arrived I found the door locked. I had to get a key from the office to get inside! But they left me some food and things. It was so nice to be able to take a shower and sleep in my bed. All these days of travelling are more taxing than I think while I'm actually doing it. I unpacked all of my things (and got more excited about the food I'd brought than I had when I'd packed them) and put my clothes in drawers. I really felt back at home and settled in.

Well, that's my vacation. It seemed like such a flurry, spending more time travelling than I did in any one place, but at the same time each day seemed so restful and happy. Being with friends was recharging, being with family encouraging, and being with loved ones was downright medicinal. I'm so thankful for the church, everything that they've done and given, and especially for all the people who've come to Haiti. (Patrick, just let me know when you're coming in. You're welcome to my house anytime, just in case nobody else will have you. ;) And thanks to everyone for your prayers! Please keep praying for me and for Haiti! It means a lot to me and both of us (and all of us) need it!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Day Before

I apologize for not having posted anything since the beginning on this blog. I have been too exhausted, emotionally and physically, to do so. But I wanted to put up these pictures that I took the day before the earthquake and narrate through a little bit of what the school has lost. This is how I want to remember Quisqueya, talking and laughing with middle schoolers and alternating teaching and joking with 9th graders. I see these smiles and they mean so much to me.

KP and KN
The two Kevins in 9th grade (KP on the left and Kevin N. on the right) are two of my favorite students. They are sharp and quick-witted, always ready with a smile and a joke, never taking things too seriously but able to dive into very complex subjects and have a good time doing it. KP has been my partner in a long, drawn out effort to frighten the English teacher to no avail. He's still in Haiti, attending the school again, and his biggest complaint is boredom. I detect a bit of a Philly accent lingering about him. Kevin N. has gone to the States and I haven't heard from him but I know he's alright. I miss him and hope to see him again someday. I was so looking forward to teaching you Algebra, Kevin!

Raphael and Olivier

Raphael (left) is the brother of one of my physics students and one of the most cheerful students on campus! He's back at school this week and I get to teach him at last! Also Olvier (right), both in 7th grade. They are both such delightful, well-behaved boys (at least they are for me...) and I will enjoy having them in class.

The Wall
Here is a picture of the lower grades camped out on the wall by the soccer field. I took these pictures before school, actually during the Monday staff meeting that I was missing because I was on outdoor supervision duty. Middle school and grade 9 hang out here, while
10th through 12th grade wait on the picnic tables near the high school/ middle school building. The building you can see in this picture is the administration building. The kids from elementary play mostly on the playground. This is pretty much my favorite part of the day, just because I can spend time with the kids, talk to them about things other than math. I enjoy hearing their stories, their likes and dislikes. This is also the time I can hear about what they really want out of school, whether they are achievers and what their dreams are. That enables me to be more pointed in what I teach and more specific in how I relate to them. These guys are why I am in Haiti, what kept me here through all the ups and downs before the earthquake. And these guys are who I missed during those first couple of weeks.

Missing Friends

Some of what we had it seems like we will never get back. Of the people in this picture, only two are still in Haiti. I don't know if I will ever see the others again. Shawn, Coralie, Kevin... I hope I do. And the small girl in the blue jacket is Crystelle. She's in 9th grade, the smallest girl in high school and she has a sister in 7th grade who looks just like her. They lost their father in the quake. She is so sweet, so earnest and polite. The day before the earthquake, I had specifically asked her if she wanted to be part of the algebra challenge group, students who wanted to really push themselves, and you should have seen how her eyes lit up at the prospect. I can't
imagine having gone through what she's experienced and is still going through. Our prayers are with you, Crystelle.

Picnic Table

These are some of the elementary kids waiting at the snack shop before school. The boy in the jersey with his foot on the bench is Elijah. The orphanage where his parents work became an emergency clinic within hours of the quake and has had people with major injuries being treated almost constantly because none of the hospitals were functioning. Also, last week his home was attacked by looters and shots were exchanged. How does a kid cope with things like this?
Reagan, the white girl, is the daughter of Denise (the woman in this picture) and Sean, the school's IT person. The Blesh family are some of the best, highest quality people I know. I often appraise people by the attitudes and actions of their children and, by that criterion, the Bleshes are near the top of my list. Their kids are so respectful, helpful, and hard-working! And strong, too. Reagan helped me take care of Peter (who is my cat, to answer those who desperately needed clarification... *smile*) during the days after, when so many people were living on campus. They evacuated with the orphanage that they were adopting from but Sean is still here. He's a powerhouse.

Missing Friends

I love watching the kids from elementary playing before or after school. They are really intense about their tetherball games. They have all sorts of rules that we never had when I was a kid. I didn't ever get a chance to get to know most of these guys, except for the 6th grade. I'm really close to them because I subbed for a week while Mrs. Farquharson was at a conference. They are definitely my favorite class, though don't tell the seniors that.
Like I said, this is how I want to remember Quisqueya, as it was on Monday, January 11th, 2010. All the smiles, greetings, jokes, and stories
that we shared. All those kids who were there and who learned. All the questions that were asked, all the complaints and all the humanness of them all. I will remember the lights in their eyes as they finally caught hold of things (“I get calculus now!!”), the questions about my “girlfriends”, the way they cajoled stories out of me (“Mr. Kulpa, 'what do you really want?'”), the times they laughed, not at my jokes but at me telling them, and all the touches, pulls, questions and comments about my beard. This is Quisqueya. Whatever may come in the future, it will always have a special place in my heart.